Food Service

Sodexo Makes Plant-Based Meals the Norm in US Campus Restaurants

Sodexo USA recently announced that it has massively expanded the use of the DefaultVeg strategy in university dining halls. This strategy, which was first piloted by Sodexo in collaboration with the Better Food Foundation and the Food for Climate League in university canteens with all-you-can-eat offerings, uses behavioral incentives to encourage a plant-based dietary change.

The expansion of offerings coincides with the publication of a recent peer-reviewed study conducted in Sodexo-operated dining halls, which concluded that offering plant-based meals as a standard may preserve students’ freedom of choice while encouraging them to choose these meals more often. The study, authored by Boston College researchers Joel Ginn and Gregg Sparkman, was published in the February issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology and was conducted by the Food for Climate League with support from the Better Food Foundation.

150% increase in opted plant-based meals

A separate report on the same pilot program, produced by the Food for Climate League and the Better Food Foundation, suggests even greater potential benefits for institutions that consistently follow this strategy. In this report, it was calculated that the two universities that most consistently implemented the plant-based meal strategy during the pilot program saw a staggering 150 percent increase in plant-based meal choices, resulting in up to 81.5 percent of students choosing plant-based meals. In addition, the switch led to a 23.6 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions attributed to catering at the three schools.

sodexo reports meatless meals increasing in popularity
© PRNewsfoto/Sodexo

“The publication of this peer-reviewed study confirms that this type of intervention in all-you-care-to-eat catering really works,” said Eve Turow-Paul, founder and executive director of the Food for Climate League. “It’s the result of a great collaboration, and we’re looking forward to the next phase of this work – developing toolkits and training to help even more universities launch their own successful plant-centered menus.”

The concept is now firmly integrated into the menus of Sodexo canteens at almost 400 universities and colleges in the USA. At these locations, there are two stations in each dining hall that encourage students to choose plant-based meals unless the school actively chooses not to: one station that is entirely plant-based and one station that alternates between plant-based and animal-based meals each day. In total, around 1 million students are catered for in the canteens of these schools every day.

Tofu Bahn Mi Sandwich
Tofu Bahn Mi Sandwich © Sodexo

“The ongoing collaboration with the Better Food Foundation has proven invaluable in providing greater insight into the impact of plant-based options in college catering,” said Lisa Feldman, Sr. Director of Culinary, Menu Systems & Impact Strategy, Sodexo North America. “Ultimately, the partnership has been instrumental in helping Sodexo strategically place plant-based items on menus and provide students with meaningful and diverse choices.”

“DefaultVeg proves that plant-based diets are both popular and successful with Generation Z,” said Jennifer Channin, Executive Director of the Better Food Foundation.

“Sodexo’s expansion of this strategy will have a real impact on the health of students and the planet. And this new in-depth study shows that most students are happy to choose plant-based meals over other options if we make the choice easy and palatable for them. The DefaultVeg strategy helps universities meet the expectations of today’s students by offering sustainable, inclusive and ethically produced food. We hope that Sodexo will continue to expand this strategy and incorporate even more plant-based inspiration into all types of foodservice on campus,” she continues.

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